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Though we often tend to focus most of our attention on Good Friday and Holy Saturday during Holy Week, don't forget the immense power and purpose of Holy Thursday.
The first event of the Holy Triduum is a game-changer.
It's a solemn celebration of the institution of the Eucharist, the "medicine of immortality", says the Church Fathers, which both unites us to Christ and empowers us to imitate him through a "Eucharistic life".
But what exactly does that mean? What does living a "Eucharistic life" like Christ actually look like?
Jesus gives us the answer at the Last Supper.
On the cusp of incredible suffering and betrayal from all sides - from Judas to Peter - Christ demonstrates what it means to truly give of yourself to others.
During the supper, he sets aside his garments and washes the feet of his closest friends, friends he knows will soon flee his presence when trouble begins.
Try to imagine the scene.
The 2nd Person of the Most Holy Trinity is kneeling down in front of the very creatures he made, fully aware they're going to abandon him a short while later.
As the water dripped from his fingers and Peter's feet into the basin and splashed onto the floor, how could the words of David in Psalm 55 not be ringing in Our Lord's ears?
"It is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
14 We used to hold sweet converse together;
within God’s house we walked in fellowship." (vv. 13-15)
But unlike David, he doesn't long for his former friends to be thrown down into Sheol. He longs for their salvation.
So he humbled himself, and made himself the servant of his beloved betrayers.
And in so doing, he shows what's expected of us even in the face of those who wound or abandon us.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another" (John 13:34).
Yes, the primary focus of Holy Thursday is the institution of the Eucharist which unites us to Christ and floods our soul with divine grace.
But if we don't allow the self-gift of Christ to empower us to give of ourselves - to truly love others as he loves us - then it is all to no avail.
It's not easy, for sure.
But try to remember that love modeled after Christ is literally the key to everything. It's what makes the world go 'round and should be the driver behind how we approach everything, says Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene.
Christ's "new commandment" to "love one another even as I have loved you", he says, "opens up unlimited horizons for the exercise of charity, for it means charity without limits."
In other words, empowered by the Eucharist, every moment of every day becomes an opportunity to exercise Eucharistic, sacrificial love of others.
That child who is driving you crazy. That stranger whom you'd rather avoid. That co-worker you can't stand.
Every person, every situation is an opportunity for self-giving love.
There is no limit to possible acts of love while we still have breath.
"If there is a limit," says Fr. Gabriel, "it is that of giving, like the Master, one's life for others, for 'greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends'" (John 15:13).
So when Christ instituted the Eucharist at the Last Supper and said, "Do this in remembrance of me," he wasn't just saying celebrate this liturgy when I'm gone."
He was saying, "Through the power of my self-gift, I'm giving you the power to do the same. 'Love one another; even as I have loved you.'" (John 13:34)
May the power of God's love in the Eucharist we celebrate this Holy Thursday empower us to give of ourselves like Christ. May we love as he loves and be filled to the brim with his divine life.
God bless you,
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